Noted while visiting Delhi

  1. Returning through Munich, the airport security staff reminded me of automated robots. They once again demonstrated that their jobs required them to suppress the one key behavioural factor which makes them human. They were not rude by any means, but they were required to provide pre-determined responses to given stimuli. They had no freedom to deviate from their trained responses and were required – under all circumstances – not to think for themselves. Of course, this is not the only job which requires humans to refrain from exercising their minds. But it begs the question – Are we still human if /when we suppress the differentiating ability to think?
  2. During my week in Delhi I noticed no signs of the new “Clean India” campaign supposedly underway. The piles of rubble and the 95% syndrome were all too clearly visible. Even in the areas visited by Barack Obama (he left Delhi on the day I arrived), the “clean-up” was as superficial as it usually is. The winter gloom and choking dust in the air were essentially unchanged.
  3. There is a new “gender game” which is catching on among middle-class, spoilt, educated girls in India. The game consists of accusing some middle-aged male – preferably in a crowded place – of having groped her and filming the accusation and the response on a smart phone. Of course the film is uploaded on You Tube along with any hulabaloo created. The winners are those who cause the greatest outrage and get the greatest number of hits. I note that poor and oppressed girls who have the greatest reason to complain about real harassment are not players. I note also that many of the players are not particularly attractive and speculate that it is a new way of seeking and getting attention. It is part of the global wave of narcissism promoted by the social media and selfies.
  4. The winter weather in Delhi is entirely unaffected by any global warming. Even the Urban Heat Island effect provides no respite for those who live on the street.
  5. Driverless cars should be tested in Delhi. If they can survive here they can survive anywhere! The protocol to be programmed in for the use of the horn could be particularly challenging.
  6. Obama’s visit was – for most Delhiites – a non-event. A small diversion and a small inconvenience providing some photo-ops for some politicians. It was largely forgotten within 2 days. (It is my theory that the inherent racism in most Indians leads to the negatives for Obama as half-black being greater than his positives for being American).
  7. Street stalls in Delhi were selling a “standard meal” for Rs 20 – 30 (30 – 50 US cents). This consists of a thali containing a portion of rice, 4 – 5 chappatis, two vegetable dishes, a portion of dal, one papad and a portion of yogurt or raita. The number of chappatis on offer was the competitive factor being used by two adjacent stalls. The same meal at a subsidised factory canteen costs about Rs 70 and around Rs 250 at a clean dhaba with plastic chairs. And at the Bukhara restaurant a the ITC Maurya Hotel (where Obama stayed and where we had our last dinner in Delhi), something similar would set you back Rs 3,000 – $50.
  8. The ubiquitous TV news channels – which are very Delhi-centric – were drooling over the State elections due tomorrow. They were never of any quality but they seem to have deteriorated even further. The news anchors and journalists running the “reality news shows” who I had some respect for once upon a time, have completely prostituted themselves to the perceived ratings. I am afraid that journalistic integrity is something that Arnab Goswami, Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt and Shekhar Gupta   – among many others – have long since abandoned.

I returned to a snow blanketed landscape and spent over an hour breaking and scraping frozen snow off my car before I could move. It was round 10ºC at night in Delhi, but it felt colder than the -6ºC I have returned to.

 

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